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May–June 2019
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Artistry

Cast in Stone
Sculptor Richard Erdman has had a passion
for stone since boyhood, and there’s no sign
he’ll tire of the medium any time soon.

• When I ask Richard Erdman what he


hopes to depict with his art, he pauses, runs
sneak into the Danby Quarry, the nation’s largest
marble quarry, where he’d explore its enormous
CLOCKWISE FROM
ABOVE LEFT: Crescendo
(2012), Italian
his hand caressingly over one of the finished underground caverns of marble. “It was like entering
Bardiglio marble,
sculptures in his Williston, another world, a magical place where I was standing 108"H × 136"W ×
Vermont, studio and tells in the marble, as 44"D; Aurelia (2016),
me, “I’m trying to capture opposed to on it,” Carrara marble, 75"H
that frozen moment in he remembers. × 29"W × 18"D; Gala
(2016), Pakistan onyx,
time, that feeling you “I’d never felt that
31"H × 26"W × 15"D.
get when you are doing aware, that alive.”
anything exciting. It’s After earning an
something I never tire of.” art degree in 1975 at the
He pauses a moment, University of Vermont, where he
brushes back his thick shock of was also a two-time NCAA All-American
gray hair, and adds, “But there’s more; skier, Erdman went to Florence,
there’s the stone itself. As long as I’ve Italy, to begin studying for a
been alive, I’ve had a love affair with graduate degree. But after a few
stone. And there’s no sign of that ever weeks of “studying cathedrals
ending.” and architecture,” he jumped
Erdman first fell in love with stone on a train to Carrara, the fabled
as a young boy growing up in Dorset, marble region in northern Italy.
Vermont. “But it wasn’t just any stone,” “Surrounded by sculptors and
he explains, “it was marble.” marble, I knew I belonged there,”
He and his siblings and child- he says.
hood friends would swim in the He found a sculptor who
nearby marble quarries and often invited him to sign on as a kind

| BY ROBERT KIENER |

50  New England Home | May–June 2019 Images courtesy of the artist


Artistry

CLOCKWISE FROM
ABOVE: Passage
(1985), Italian traver-
AS A CHILD IN
tine, 190"H × 300"W DORSET, VERMONT,
× 100"D; Spira (2014), THE ARTIST WOULD
Italian Bardiglio
OFTEN SNEAK INTO THE
NEARBY UNDERGROUND
marble, 100"H × 75"W
× 62"D; Momenta
(2009), bronze, 26"H MARBLE CAVERNS. “IT
× 20"W × 20"D. BELOW: WAS A MAGICAL PLACE
WHERE I WAS STANDING
Serenade (2018)
Carrara marble; 98”H
× 60”W × 37”D. FACING IN THE MARBLE, AS
PAGE: The artist with OPPOSED TO ON IT,”
Form Reclining (2016),
bronze, 70"H × 80"W
HE REMEMBERS.
× 54"D.

of apprentice and promptly dropped out of graduate for his abstract, flowing, almost gravity-defying
school. “I had my epiphany in Carrara,” says Erdman. sculptures, many of which have been commissioned
“It was there that I knew what I was going to do for by corporations, museums, and private patrons
the rest of my life.” in fifty-two countries. His sculptures have been
Some four decades—and more than 1,000 sculp- included in more than 160 solo and group exhibitions
tures—later, Erdman has become famous worldwide and are part of collections ranging from Boston’s
Museum of Fine Arts to the Rockefeller
Collection in New York to the Minneapo-
lis Institute of Art.
One of his most famous pieces, the
massive twenty-five-by-sixteen-foot
Passage, was commissioned by the
Donald Kendall Sculpture Gardens
at the PepsiCo world headquarters in
Purchase, New York, and still holds the
record for the world’s largest sculpture
carved from a single block (450 tons) of
travertine. It stands at the entrance of
the garden, which also includes works
by such notables as Auguste Rodin,
Henry Moore, Alberto Giacometti, and
­Alexander  Calder.
Flipping through his 2016 monograph,

52  New England Home | May–June 2019


Richard Erdman Sculpture, it’s clear that
Erdman has created a lifetime of work
that, as he hoped, has captured a moment
in time. When I remind him that one
writer has noted, “Richard Erdman can
make marble float,” and another said his
work makes one wonder, “How did he
possibly carve that into stone?” Erdman
admits that he is thrilled that his work
resonates with so many people. “I have
been extremely fortunate to be able to do
what I do,” he says.
Erdman shows me how he uses a com-
bination of wire, aluminum screen, and
even pipe cleaners (“my trade secrets,”
he jokes) to fashion a three-dimensional,
small-scale model of a sculpture, much
as an artist would use a sketchbook or a
computer. “I draw in three dimensions;
I draw in space,” he explains. “When I’m

getting somewhere, I cover the model


with plaster and keep working it until I’m
happy with the result.”
He sends the finished plaster model to
his studio in Carrara, where his team of
artisans will replicate the piece in marble.
While his marble pieces are usually only
one-offs, he will have some pieces cast in
smaller, limited-edition bronze versions.
Erdman goes to Carrara six or seven
times a year to hand-select marble from
the quarries there for new pieces as well
as to oversee his studio craftspeople for
the “scaling up” process, where they trans-
form his plaster models into much larger
finished sculptures. “Every piece I do is a
true collaboration,” he explains.
It seems fitting that his much-admired
work comes to life in Carrara, the place
that nurtured him so many years ago. The
love affair continues. 
EDITOR’S NOTE: To see more of Richard Erdman’s
work, go to richarderdman.com.

May–June 2019 | New England Home  53